As a Colorado Avalanche fan we are rejoicing over the footage of the Avs in practice, but why does it matter so much now?
For any fan of the Colorado Avalanche the night of March 11th, 2020 was just like any other night of the NHL 2019-20 regular season. The Avs compiled a rather impressive season and found themselves chasing the Blues for the top spot in the Western Conference.
On March 11th the New York Rangers came into Pepsi Center trying to scratch and claw their way into the playoff picture by taking advantage of the injury-riddled Avs. These two teams met previously on January 7th and the Rangers embarrassed the Avalanche 5-3 as Colorado was in the middle of losing 7 of their last 10 games at the time. With Artemi Panarin and Jesper Fast both having 3 points apiece in the January 7th bout, the Rangers wanted to make a statement against an Avalanche team without their injured star Nathan MacKinnon.
Any Avs fan watching the game enjoyed it the same way as they have the previous games that year, complaining about the powerplay, debating who should be the starting goalie, and over-analyzing every decision that head coach Jared Bednar makes. But its 2020 and most fans watching the game have a smartphone and have twitter blazing with trash talk and banter and staying engaged in the game through commercials.
But that night even the most casual of sports fan saw the headline that “NBA star Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID-19,” and at the time the rumors and discussion of the virus finally hit the sports world in America. It became a post-game topic on the Avalanche broadcast and the uncertainty of its effect on the NHL was unclear. So naturally, we all went to bed after the nerve-racking overtime winner against the Rangers and focused our sights on the Vancouver Canucks game on the following Friday.
However, on the next day, March 12th, the NHL announced the suspension of play amid the concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then for all of us, it finally sank in — this pandemic was real, the world was shutting down and it looks like we won’t see Vancouver on Friday.
Then on game day, we would get the notification on our phones “Col Game Start: Vs. Van, 9 pm ET” but there was no game, no hockey, no nothing. It was a humbling reminder that the world was different all around us, and we lost our escape from our daily lives and the Avalanche community that became our family in some ways. Suddenly the power play wasn’t such a big issue, we missed both goalies and no one complained about Bednar. We missed the Colorado Avalanche and the routine of the season that we took for granted.
For 365 days a year, we eat, sleep, and breathe Colorado Avalanche hockey. We scan the rumor mills, read the articles pertaining to the Avalanche, check the news around the league, keep tabs on scores and players and, most importantly, we let everyone know why THIS year is our year to win the Stanley Cup.
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We all wear our Burgandy and Blue apparel with the iconic swooshing Avalanche “A” and question anyone wearing any other logo of competing nature. Where complete strangers can immediately become friends, and become a family with thousands of others with just a simple “Go Avs Go”. The Colorado Avalanche has become our daily escape from the stress and turmoil of the world around us and our source of belonging. And in one sudden moment, it was gone.
Trying to get through these uncertain times of quarantine without hockey as our distraction was a challenge, to say the least. The NHL app created a “Pause Binge” playlist of curated video content for fans to watch to possibly fill the void in the absence of live hockey. Many resorted to playing and streaming the EA Sports NHL 20 games on many different gaming services to try and make a substitute for the competitive environment.
But nothing seemed to be a suitable replacement for the actual game and that feverish environment amongst the fans. Optimism was starting to wane if we would ever see hockey of any kind played on the ice at all in 2020.
Now after 4 months of quarantine we find ourselves in Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play and the team we have missed is slowly assembling. This same Colorado Avalanche team that we never got to say goodbye to in March has begun to lace up the skates in practice jerseys and prepare for their playoff push. We are now taking the little moments of a seemingly meaningless practice with greater appreciation and rejuvenation of our fandom and a reacquainting of family.
At long last, we are once again getting to be hockey fans cheering for the 40-50 second clips of the players just doing hockey drills. It’s not so much a fan over-reaction to the simplest hockey drills as it is a weird and awkward reunion after a weird and awkward goodbye. During this time as the players are reacclimating themselves to game shape, so can we as fans.
We can get excited again for Gabe, Nate, and Cale Makar and cheer them back to the level that they were playing at in March. Now the debate about Grubauer and Francouz can finally heat back up, we can be skeptical about the power play, and once again the game-time decisions of Jared Bednar can be a topic of conversation. Even though the fans won’t be allowed back in the arena for quite some time, we can easily cheer and resume our at-home game day traditions.
There is no shame in getting excited again for hockey to return because we yearn for that escape, we yearn for that chance to connect with our Avalanche family. Let’s take this Phase 2 period to make our return as well to support our team, support our fans, and support each other as a hockey community. So yes let us get Cup Crazy and let us get ready for when the team returns because they need us louder and stronger than ever.